Tonight marks the first night of Passover. Those of you who know the origins of the holiday will recall that it commemorates the departure of the Jewish people, en masse, from Egypt after 400 years of being enslaved there. The story has many sub-plots including a baby named Moses plucked from the River Nile by an Egyptian princess, ominous plagues visited upon the Egyptians when they refuse to bend to God’s will, miraculous splitting and subsequent crossing of the red sea by The Jews and drowning of the Egyptian army.  If you aren’t familiar with the story then go rent Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner; I promise you’ll be more or less caught up to speed.

Anyway, this year my attention turns to what is perhaps the seminal moment in the entire story; the granting of The Ten Commandments.  Rules to live by.  Of course, they offer some timeless dictates including “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and “Honor Thy Mother and Father:” good advice for sure but in today’s world I doubt I am alone in thinking that maybe they need to be expanded a little. So, with no disrespect intended toward the original version or the original author, I offer my updated version of the Ten Commandments for the year 2016:

  • Thou Shalt Not be an Asshole

File this one under another biblical edict: “Do Unto Others as You would Have them Do Unto You.” It may sound trite and even a bit preachy (for which I apologize) but it seems we are all in need a reminder every now and again that we are not in this alone. Karma is very real so if you’re not going to do the right thing for its own sake, do it so you’re not on the receiving end of karmic justice.

  • We Have Only One Planet….Protect it

Whether or not you believe in global warming, be protective of Mother Earth.  Treat her with respect and kindness.  Above all never take her for granted. When I was young there was a television commercial that would play over and over again. It featured a Native American Indian staring out a polluted river and shedding a tear.  I try to remember that when I can’t find a garbage can or when I’m tempted to throw something into the ocean.  God forbid there ever comes a day when our planet decides she’s had enough.

  • Do Something Selfless for Someone Every day

Doing something for someone else comes with a surprising reward, not for the surprisee but for the suprisor. In fact, you will feel like a hero and boost your own self-esteem by doing an act of kindness for someone else. And, of course, the other person will benefit too.  Win-win home run situation.

  • Texting and Messaging Are By No Means a Replacement for Face-to-Face Contact. Socialize.

I’m old enough to remember a time when there were no smart phones and no internet.  Although it may seem like these technologies have been around forever and are indispensable, they have not and they are not.   There’s no substitute for person-to-person communication and contact. After all, if you have 1,000 followers on your Facebook page but are still alone and dinnertime, there is a problem. Make real friends and enjoy them. Get out there and meet people.

  • Be Ambitious Yet Thoughtful

Too often people think that being ambitious justifies bad behaviour. Ambition is good but backstabbing, lying and cheating to get ahead is not. Of course you should strive to be the best person you can be. Be ambitious in your personal growth as well as your professional growth. But be mindful of others and win with honor. A victory without honor is like an unseasoned dish, it may satisfy your hunger but it won’t taste good.

  • The Pursuit of Money is Not A Valid Pursuit. Do Something Better with Your Life.

Be very wary of making money your God.  It is the root of all good but also all evil. Money is only a means to an end and not an end in and of itself. More than any other commandment, take this one to heart.  If you do what you love the money will come. But if money is all consuming to you and the first factor in every decision you make you will become a miserable person who will die alone surrounded by his money.

  • Take a REAL vacation. Unplug and Vanish for Two Weeks.

The new trend in businesses around the world is to take a “working” vacation.  In fact this is no vacation at all. You work hard and you deserve some tranquil time to reflect and rest. I once worked for someone who made me take a working vacation.  I resented it (and him) then and thinking back on it I still resent it and him. This is non-negotiable and a deal breaker.  No one ever lay on their deathbed wishing they’d spent more time at work.

  • Treat Your Subordinates Better Than your Superiors.

If you want to know what kind of a person you’re dealing with, invite them to dinner and listen to them place their order.  Insecure power hungry people talk down to their subordinates because they have to keep reminding themselves and others where they stand.  Pity these people for they are often very broken on the inside.  A secure well-adjusted (and happy) individual treats all people with respect…especially those that are in a position to serve.

  • Don’t Always Rely on Technology. Practice Long Division

The first time I heard that my daughter was allowed (and expected) to bring a calculator to school for use during a test, I thought “well this is truly the end of the world as we know it.”  Doing math is good for your brain. Getting easy instant answers is not.  Take some time to learn long division again and then practice it.  It will enhance your mental abilities.

  • Words Can Cut. Use them Wisely and Sparingly

This is another one that we forget much too often.  Words have power, sometimes more than fists.  When we use our words to cut people and tear them down we are creating damage that I sometimes irreversible. Especially when speaking to a child, be mindful of your words and know their power.  Children have no way of knowing that they didn’t deserve the verbal assault they received and will think it justified. Be very very careful.